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The woes of the high street retail sector have been well documented, with major names such as Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser and Debenhams announcing store closures, while the likes of Maplin and Toys R Us have gone out of business altogether.
Some 21,000 retail workers lost their jobs in the first three months of 2018 alone as the high street struggled against the growth of online shopping, dwindling consumer confidence, Brexit uncertainty and an unpredictable economic climate.
Now an insolvency firm has warned that the estate agency industry could be in danger of going a similar way. Moore Stephens has claimed that 153 agents have gone bust in the past year, while more than 7,000 exhibit 'signs of financial distress'.
Moore Stephens points to Foxtons, which recently reported a 15% fall in revenue in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2017, and Countrywide's tumbling share price as evidence to back up its claims that the sector is in a precarious position.
The rise of online agencies (who have fewer fixed costs than traditional operators) is helping to worsen the position of traditional agencies, according to Moore Stephens, while the upcoming ban on letting agent fees charged to tenants – set to be introduced in the spring of 2019 – is also set to hurt the profits of many agencies and make income even more marginal.
Chris Marsden, restructuring partner at Moore Stephens, said insolvencies of high street agents are on the increase as online competition continues to chip away at their market share and affect commission rates.
He added that some parts of the UK appeared to have a surplus of estate agents. By reaching excess capacity, the knock-on effect is that there is not enough business to go around as property transactions stagnate or fall.
Marsden advised estate agents operating under a traditional model to see whether they could lower overheads and review what they are offering to compete in the current marketplace.
There have also been calls for agents to diversify, and embrace PropTech solutions, to help them stand out from the crowd.
It's not all doom and gloom, of course. There are still many agents doing a roaring trade, batting off tough conditions, new regulation and Brexit uncertainty and taking a business as usual approach. It's also true that the property industry has been one of the most robust in recent years, finding ways to thrive in difficult circumstances.
However, it is the case that the market is currently a tough one for agents, particularly those operating in London and the South East where prices and transactions are falling.
To reduce your chances of becoming one of the statistics outlined above, there are things you can do to improve your offerings to clients. One of these is ensuring you have the best property software and website in town.
At Gnomen we can provide exactly that, with our all-in-one, cloud-based system helping you to grow your business. In a difficult market, it's more important than ever that you're on top of your call-backs, diary, valuations and instructions, as well as keeping tabs on your staff, customers and offices at the click of a button.
Customer support and communication is vital if you want to offer a bespoke, better-than-the competition service, which is where our tailored log-in areas for buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants come in handy.
We also know, in this day and age, the huge importance of an attractive, user-friendly website. With increasing competition from online operators, a website that stands out from the crowd is a must. Our website design service can help you create the best possible site – fully optimised on all devices – with a range of cutting-edge features on offer.
For more information about what we can do for you, please get in touch with us on 0208 123 9019 or book a free demo here.
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